In early 2009, IDW Comics launched a terrific mini-series called STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN. I couldn’t say how many comic book readers or Star Trek fans read it, but my opinion of it was that the production was stellar from start to finish. In many ways, the mini tremendously complemented what was about to appear theatrically – that being JJ Abrams’ first installment in the Star Trek universe – as the first part of the four-issue basically introduced audiences to the characters who would be explored (to some extent) in the upcoming motion picture. With some smart cameos and some wonderful artwork, COUNTDOWN became a sensation in its own right; and I came across several fans in cyberspace who insisted that JJ and company should’ve included more detail from its pages in the film. I don’t know if that would’ve worked myself; but I’d be a fool if I didn’t state that reading the mini vastly increased my appreciation for the next Trek film.
Now, just this week, IDW may be hoping for lightning to strike twice. The company launched a brand new mini-series titled STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS. Again, they’re promising to “set the stage” for characters and events that’ll take to the silver screen when the next film, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, premieres in theatres this spring.
(NOTE: the following review will contain spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last paragraph for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
As fate would have it, Spock is experiencing trouble sleeping. His mind is heavy from the events of the recent past; Vulcan was destroyed, the remnants of his people are scattered across the stars, and his mother was killed in the assault on his home planet. Kirk, too, is experiencing difficulties, as the strain of command is wearing thin on the young captain’s psyche. He’s learned how alone he feels, so much so that he catches himself in casual conversation with the ship’s computer.
Hoping to lose themselves in their work, Kirk and Spock and the rest of the crew arrive at the planet Phaedus, where they’re supposed to conduct a routine observation of a world not yet rewarded with ‘first contact.’ However, much to their surprise, they establish orbit and discover a high-frequency energy field in use – one that vastly surpasses the Phaedans known technology – putting them in a treacherous situation: do they risk accidentally being discovered by traveling to the planet to investigate, or should they simply file a report?
As you can guess, Jim Kirk and his shipmates are never one to pass up on a mystery, and it’s this decision that puts this COUNTDOWN into motion. Their trip to the planet’s surface is not without incident, and what they find may very well change the history of this quadrant as they’ve come to know it!
Sadly, there really is very little substance in this first issue. I say that not as a complaint – rather, it’s just an honest reaction. Much of these events appear to be little more than set-up, bringing the ship and its crew into focus for where they are in the here and now of this story. Spock’s development is relatively predictable, and the frame of mind Kirk finds himself in is not at all unlike that already explored by Captain Christopher Pike in the original (TV) STAR TREK pilot, “The Cage.” In fact, much of Kirk’s log entry (his speaking to the computer) seemed reminiscent of Pike’s speech to his doctor in said episode. Rather than consider this a mistake, I’ll consider it a respectful nod back to the show that spawned the film franchise. I’ve no idea what the writers will make of it, but it’s a nice development.
Lastly, there’s a terrific surprise cameo in the issue’s concluding pages that hopefully will tie in with the pending movie – otherwise, it feels vaguely commercial, if not repetitive in the same way that an older and much wiser Spock played into the timeline of JJ’s first Trek movie. There’s nothing wrong with introducing other characters from the original program into this new period – especially nothing wrong with the emergence of this ‘legend’ only tried-and-true Trek fans will appreciate – and that’s why I’ll definitely be here next month when the second book streets.
I definitely want to know where this journey is heading, and I’m hoping it’ll boldly go where no man has gone before.
STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS is published by IDW Publishing Company. The story is written by Roberto Orci and Mike Johnson; the script is written by Mike Johnson; the art is by David Messina; the ink assist (?) is provided by Marina Castelvetro; the colors are by Claudia Scarletgothica; and lettering is by Chris Mowry. The issue bears a cover price of $3.99, not payable in gold pressed latinum or quatloos.
RECOMMENDED. Sometimes, it’s hard to grasp where a comics miniseries could be heading; however, given the overwhelming strength of the first STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN – the one which set-up in some amazing detail the events explored in JJ Abrams’ 2009 STAR TREK film – I’m giving COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS a bit of a ‘get out of jail’ free card. There wasn’t much to sink your teeth into here – some fairly predictable character developments, but it was all handled with strong focus and excellent artwork – so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the next issue has a bit more to offer.
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